Superbug gene against all forms of antibiotics discovered in China

Updated: 2015-11-21 09:38


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Superbug gene against all forms of antibiotics discovered in China

File photo of CG model diagram of gene's double helix structure. [Photo from web]

Researchers at South China Agricultural University, lead by Liu Jianhua, have discovered a gene in China, called MCR-1, which makes bacteria resistant against polymyxins. These are antibiotics seen as a last-line of defence for humans in the fight against superbugs.

The gene has been detected in bacteria samples taken from both humans and pigs in China.

The gene - commonly housed in faecal bacteria such as E. coli and K. pneumoniae, which can cause pneumonia and blood disease - makes these bacteria unbeatable.

Worse still, MCR-1 enables the bacteria to spread easily from one strain or species to another, according to the study by the researchers which was published in the respected medical journal 'Lancet Infectious Diseases.'

According the study, the infection rate among humans is lower than that in animals, suggesting that the resistant bacteria may have passed from animals to people.

Liu Jianhua says the results are extremely worrying and reveal the emergence of the first polymyxin resistant genes which can be readily passed between common bacteria, which means the progression to pan-drug resistance, is now inevitable.

Some 480,000 people contracted multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in 2014, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report. The disease killed 190,000 in the same year. The report highlighted the need to tackle the growing number of strains of antibiotic resistant micro-organisms.

The pressure is on to prevent this gene from going global. Coordinated efforts across the world are necessary to make sure that doesn't happen.

"Without urgent, coordinated action," WHO stated, "the world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries, which have been treatable for decades, can once again kill."